Troutman Council mulls subdivision requirements, adopts slogan
BY DEBBIE PAGE
At Monday’s pre-agenda meeting, Troutman Town Council heard from several speakers concerned about a shift in subdivision rules that caused a developer to abandon a residential project behind Iredell Charter Academy.
Council members also unanimously on the amount of a low-interest state loan to fund up to seven sewer projects in town, including the much-needed Mill Village area that has suffered sewer issues in its outdated terra cotta pipes for years.
SUBDIVISION BUILDING AND FIRE CODE CONTROVERSY
Real estate broker Howard Bryan asked to speak to the council about a change in subdivision rules that caused MI Homes to back out of its contract on the 74-acre tract off Crosstie Lane after investing significant money and getting rezoning at the site.
Bryan explained that the county fire marshal said that the property must have two access points, though 18 examples exist in the county where that requirement was not enforced. He asked how subdivisions could be built on Fern Hill or Morrison Farm roads if this rule was applied.
Because of the shape and location of this landlocked property, which is owned by Dr. John Howard, only one entrance is possible because adjacent landowners refuse to sell any land to build a second entrance.
The subdivision developers planned to build a roundabout entrance at the intersection that it would share with the charter school. Before moving forward last year with the MI project, Howard confirmed with Town Planner Erika Howard that only one entrance would be required, with stub-outs added to accommodate possible future road connections.
Howard said nothing in Troutman’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) requires two access points. One-entrance developments with stub-outs have been permitted in Iredell County for many years. Since no wording was changed in state building code or fire ordinances for the past 25 years, Bryan questioned this sudden requirement for this piece of property.
Howard also pointed out that N.C. Fire Code is not part of the state building code by statute. Appendix D of the building code is not applicable to subdivisions in any city or county in North Carolina unless specifically adopted by the ruling entity and then ratified by the N.C. Building Code Council.
The state law says that every city and county must pass a subdivision ordinance, UDO, or land development ordinance that it must use to decide if a subdivision fits in the town’s rules and regulations. Recent court case rulings also state that other rules cannot be added in making the decisions.
The Troutman UDO requires access for emergency vehicles and that every subdivision must connect to one public street, according to Bryan. “It does not incorporate fire code or appendix D. You put what you want in your subdivision code. Appendix D is an advisory part that cannot be applied haphazardly. Fire code was not meant to design subdivisions. That is the purview of cities and towns.”
State statute says that developments of more than 30 homes must have second entrance or have connectivity to future development. Bryan noted that Iredell County's subdivision ordinances say that developments have to provide connectivity, or stub-outs to future developments, as does Troutman’s UDO.
Bryan said other developers in the land, as well as former developer MI Homes, would be willing to put in a second access, but they cannot under present circumstances. However, nothing in Troutman’s UDO requires any developer to do it. No developer will proceed with any development plan if any room exists for legal hassles, Bryan added.
Bryan and Town Planner Erika Martin asked the council to readopt the fire code without Appendix D so development can proceed. He noted the homes would add $45 million in tax value as well as water and sewer fees to help provide the amenities that citizens want.
Martin felt that not acting would stagnant future growth.
“I think it’s an unfortunate interpretation if it seems like we are trying to do something different or that we are against fire code when the town is very much for safety,” said Martin. “Over the years we’ve looked at the big picture, which is why we have required connectivity. We are just looking for council’s direction on what to do.”
Gerald Grant, an engineer and surveyor with 42 years of experience, could not recall ever consulting with the fire marshal’s office for subdivision design. “I’m interested in how this goes forward and how I will advise my clients to develop, or if they can develop, property if this new rule applies,” he said.
Council member Paul Henkel said this situation seems to be a first since organizations associated with building and the UNC School of Government cannot find records of a similar situation.
“We lost a good development here,” said Henkel. “No one is speaking out against fire safety or the fire marshal, who has a tough job to do. At thesame time, I’m here to represent the citizens and what’s good for this town that will not compromise fire safety.”
Henkel noted other developments could also be at risk under this interpretation of the fire code. “If there’s something we can do and be legal and adopt the fire code without the D yet, maybe add something that wherever reasonably possible that a second entrance should be added. Otherwise, the stub-outs would be sufficient.”
“I don’t want to see another good development lost over a situation that has so many questions surrounding it and that is not really a part of our subdivision ordinance,” concluded Henkel.
Mayor Teross Young was surprised at the situation since Falls Cove and other neighborhoods have only one entrance. Young said the council needed to clean up the ordinance to make things clear.
Fire Marshal David Souther wanted to look at the county’s agreement from with Troutman to explore the enforcement aspect of fire code within Troutman.
After over an hour of discussion, the mayor and council members decided to study and research the situation more thoroughly and wait until the October meeting for action to create a plan that hopefully all could agree with.
“This is an important issue. I don’t see solving it in two days,” said council member Judy Jablonski.
NEW TOWN SLOGAN ADOPTED
The council also approved Troutman’s new tagline, “Enjoy Troutman …. Naturally.”
Consultant Buzz Bizzell, who is designing the town’s wayfinding plan, strongly suggested this tagline aimed at pulling visitors into Troutman.
The current tagline is “Lake Norman’s Front Porch,” which tied into the town’s Front Porch Festival. Council member Sally Williams objected to the change because of the festival and other possible connotations of the new tagline.
Town Manager Justin Longino explained this tagline ties into state park slogan, “Naturally wonderful,” to connect Troutman to the popular Lake Norman State Park. He also said Troutman Business Council (TBC) is in favor of the change.
Martin said that work on the water tower design and the second stage of the wayfinding plan, which involves getting buy-in from area businesses and the community, cannot proceed without a decision.
Mayor Young pointed out that the town also needed time to integrate the tagline into its materials and advertising. The TBC website will also be available soon, and the tagline would also need to be integrated into that as well.
The new tagline passed with a 4-1 vote, with Williams dissenting.
WATER AND SEWER PROJECTS
The council will be voting Thursday night to adopt a resolution to apply for state funding from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality for wastewater system improvement projects at its regular meeting, but the council members had to decide which of seven projects they wanted to possibly fund and then determine the loan amount to be requested.
The low-interest loan, on which payments are not required until project completion, has an application deadline of September 30, requiring council to quickly make decisions about the loan request amount.
The Mill Village Gravity Sewer system project, which would replace brittle terra cotta pipes in the area, was a top priority for all council members. Other projects listed by Public Works Supervisor Adam Lippard were revamping or replacing the Mill Village Pump Station with additional gravity sewer lines, upgrading or replacing the Legend Lane pump station, upgrading the Quail Haven station, upgrading pumps and adding generators to the Rimmer Farm Road and Iredell Avenue stations, and roof repair and adding a generator at the I-L Creek pump station.
After discussion of needs and the coming growth that will place further demands on the system, the council decided to request a loan for all projects, totaling $1,575,176, and then decide which projects they will do after an upcoming discussion on the town’s debt load.
This long-term loan, spread out over several decades, is drawn on only as projects are being completed, much like a line of credit. The council could decide to use only part of the loan without obligation for the rest of the amount.
STREETLIGHTS ON JULIAN PLACE
The council requested that staff investigate the costs of installing one or more street lights on Julian Place to provide better lighting and safety for riders on the CATS bus that connects to Charlotte.
About 13 commuters per day are using the CATS bus. Some have expressed concerns about being uncomfortable sitting in their dark cars waiting for bus. Staff has contacted Duke Energy for estimates.
A commuter parking sign is there but no spaces are marked. “This will make it feel safer and more welcoming,” added Martin.
The council will set a special meeting in November with a closed session to discuss personnel issues and an open session to consolidate their thinking and priorities in several spending areas.
Henkel wants to look at the debt report and decide what the town can afford to do on street repairs, wastewater projects, and Town Hall expansion plans. The goal is to create a more coherent long-term plan to meet town needs .
“We need to make some decisions so we can get the process going to get some of these streets paved soon,” said Henkel.
The council will rank road projects since there are too many to do this fiscal year. They plan to do a few each year as funds allow.
The South Iredell High School Greenway section will be complete September 30. The project had $747,895 allocated, including $480,000 in grant money, $189,895 from the town’s budget, $75,000 from Iredell-Statesville Schools, and $3,000 from PSNC.
The costs to date came under budget at $687,337.66, leaving a surplus of $60,557.34 in awarded grant funds that will be returned, according to Longino.
THURSDAY NIGHT AGENDA
The council will consider:
• Approval of a resolution to adopt the recommended wastewater collection system capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2017 - 2028.
• Approval of a resolution to apply for funding from NC Division of Environmental Quality for a wastewater system improvement projects.
• Approval of an ordinance to amend the Municipal Code regulating the Town Of Troutman ESC Park, Troutman Depot Park, and Troutman Greenway System. This ordinance covers tobacco, alcohol, and firearms and weapons rules on town recreational property.
• Approval of an ordinance restricting through traffic and regulating weight limit On Streamwood Road within Streamwood at Falls Cove.
• Annexation of .497 acres at 128 Gilcrest Lane.
• Making a Planning and Zoning Board appointment of an Inside Alternate Member for a thee-year term.
• Reports from Troutman Parks and Recreation and J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library.